Liverpool’s record-setting win shows Spurs just how far they have to go in Mourinho’s rebuild

Another day, another win and another record for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. After Roberto Firmino’s first-half goal secured a 1-0 victory against Tottenham, the Premier League leaders took their points haul to an incredible 61 from 21 games — a number unmatched, ever, by any team in Europe’s big five leagues.

Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Juventus had previously set the benchmark by accumulating 59 points from their first 21 games of the season, but Liverpool have now smashed that record.

“When somebody told me that, I didn’t feel anything,” Klopp said. “I don’t exactly know what’s wrong with me; it’s really cool, it’s exceptional, but I didn’t think about it after the game and somebody had to remind me about it.

“All we are trying to do is create a basis for the rest of the season. We have a lot of tough games to play, today was difficult, but we have to be ready for the games ahead.”

Klopp can start to enjoy the view from the top, though. Liverpool sit 16 points clear of the chasing pack in the Premier League despite having played one game fewer than second-placed Leicester City and, at their current rate of progress, could win the title — the club’s first since 1990 — before the end of March.

Liverpool have been so impressive this season that it is sometimes easy to forget that they have only dropped two points, when drawing at Manchester United in October. They have also taken 88 points from the last 90 available, so their consistency is phenomenal.

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United are next up, at Anfield next Sunday, and only the most optimistic Mancunian would expect anything other than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team to be steamrolled like every other side that has travelled to Liverpool this campaign.

At Tottenham, Liverpool were uncharacteristically sloppy at times, especially in the first half, and they rode their luck after the interval, most notably when Giovani Lo Celso missed a golden chance to equalise on 83 minutes. It was a miss that saw manager Jose Mourinho sink to his knees on the touchline, but after the dust had settled, the Portuguese will also have admired the resolve and winning mentality of Klopp’s team.

Whether they blow you away or stumble to victory, Liverpool get the job done, and Mourinho admitted he could have no complaints about the performance of his injury-hit team.

“I think we deserved something,” Mourinho said. “That’s why I have a good feeling with the boys because Liverpool are probably the best team in the world, at maximum potential, capable of winning a big FA Cup tie with a second team.

“But we have our problems and I think we deserve more than we got and I have only reason to be proud of my players. There were lots of positives. We have many difficulties in this moment with not many solutions, but to compete against such a good opponent, I can only be happy with our performance.”

It was a fair assessment by Mourinho. Liverpool are untouchable right now, but his Spurs team are struggling to find form for a variety of reasons. The lack of confidence, which contributed to Mauricio Pochettino’s dismissal in November, remains an issue, while injuries to Moussa Sissoko, Tanguy Ndombele, Hugo Lloris and, most significantly, Harry Kane, have hit Spurs hard.

Tottenham have a long way to go to catch the likes of dominant Liverpool. John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

There was a time when Mourinho’s teams were breaking records and ripping the field apart, just as Liverpool are doing now, especially when he was at Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan, but his challenge at Spurs is entirely different. It is somewhere in between the revival job he had at United — where he ultimately failed — and the second time around at Chelsea, when he inherited a team capable of winning big and did so.

Spurs have the players, when everyone is fit, to challenge for silverware, but Mourinho needs to get as much as he can from this squad until the end of the season, when he can attempt to rebuild and make it more capable of delivering when it matters. He needs reliable cover for Kane and a top-class goalkeeper because neither Lloris, nor his deputy Paulo Gazzaniga, are good enough for a big-six Premier League team.

And he needs to move Christian Eriksen out of the club because the Danish midfielder, whose contract expires in the summer, played against Liverpool as though he had checked out months ago. Boos rang out around the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium when Eriksen was substituted late in the second half, and the jeers were certainly not for Mourinho’s decision to take him off.

But there were enough positives for Mourinho to point to, such as Japhet Tanganga’s impressive debut at right-back, Dele Alli’s spirited performance and the limitless work ethic of Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura. Serge Aurier also looked like a player who could contribute much more in right midfield than at right-back, where his reckless tackling often makes him a liability.

But Spurs under Mourinho are a work in progress, one that is at a very early stage of transition. Liverpool, in contrast, are the finished article under Klopp. Every week brings another high point and they are at the peak of their powers.

It will be a while before Mourinho, or anyone else, can stop them.

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